UNC Basketball: Defending The 3 At UNC


It is quite simple and something we all know UNC doesn’t defend the 3-point shot well at all. Wait, that isn’t quite right. Let me rephrase that, UNC is absolutely HORRIBLE at defending the 3-point shot in the Roy Williams era. They have had years where they have been decent but like this year most years they have been atrocious. The better question is why is UNC lacking so bad in this facet of the game?

Jan 10, 2013; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels forward Reggie Bullock (35) prepares to play defense in the second half. The Hurricanes defeated the Tar Heels 68-59 at the Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Most of it stems from how UNC deals with screens and help defense. I won’t pretend to know how Roy coaches these two things. I am not going to blame coaching (I have my suspicions that a ton falls on how Roy coaches Defense but it also falls on the players shoulders) this is simply an article to point out why UNC just can’t cover a shot that has hurt them so badly over the years.

The first and probably the biggest reason UNC has such a hard time with defending the 3 is the high ball screen. That is when a player sets a screen at the top of the three point arc for the player with the ball. UNC just hasn’t figured out how to properly defend this. Sometimes the man guarding the screener doesn’t hedge enough.  This usually results in the player with the ball either getting into the lane collapsing the defense further and he is able to kick out to an open shooter or the man with the ball is left wide open at the 3 point line. The other thing that happens is that the player guarding the screener hedges way too much. This results in the screener being left wide open to either shoot the three or drive and kick. In either case their is a wide open 3 and usually there is more than one shooter who is wide open. UNC far too often over hedges or under hedges and then gets caught with their pants down.

There is another reason that opponents are getting so many open looks against UNC. The reason is the lack of understanding and the lack of communication of the players on help defense. First and foremost even as a middle schooler players are taught help defense and one of the biggest facets of help defense is YOU NEVER HELP OFF OF A SHOOTER. Plain and simple UNC does not understand this. They constantly are helping on the driving ball handler off of the opponents best shooters. You simply can’t do it especially in this day in age where players have become so good shooting the 3 point shot.

Another aspect of this is the communication or lack there off when helping. Far too often (especially this year) you see more than one player helping on a driving ball handler. Common sense suggests if three people have collapsed on a ball handler people are going to be wide open. Both of these aspects implore UNC to have better communication and a better understanding of whom they are guarding. They far too often look lost or shocked that players have gotten so open. The result of this is a UNC defense that is broken and in scramble mode, the perfect recipe for 3-point disaster.

Until the above are fully understood by the players UNC’s 3-point defense is not likely to improve. The easiest problem to fix is the communication and it is the problem overarching all of this. The aspect of this that drives me the craziest as a simple basketball lover is when more than one player decides to help on the ball handler.  Simply talking would fix this and keep me and many others from pulling their hair out.  UNC’s players must understand where they are on the court and where their other four teammates are. When they finally start to grasp this simple but core aspect of defense then they can begin to improve on the other more intricate aspects of the man-to-man defense Roy Williams employs.